Collette Dinnigan: Unlaced – A Tour De Force Of Fashion


Collette Dinnigan centre, with the Stuart Ayres NSW Minister for Trade, Tourism and Major Events and Rose Hiscock, Director, Powerhouse Museum

Australia’s iconic Fashion designer Collette Dinnigan has collaborated with the award winning stage and costume designer and installation artist Anna Tregloan for production design and styling of the exhibition Collette Dinnigan: Unlaced.

This stunning show presented by The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) is on now at the Powerhouse Museum located in the old Ultimo Power Station nearby to Darling Harbour in Sydney. Colette said “Being involved in this exciting project has enabled the dynamic world of fashion and the disciplined curation of museum to fuse together.”

Unlaced- verb – to loosen or undo the lacings or laces of (a corset etc). or , to loosen or remove garments of (a person) by or as if undoing laces.

It’s an interesting title. And made more interesting by the complexities of the designer in question.

Collette Dinnigan has always been notoriously private. Offering only small snippets into her life, she has loosened the laces and removed the layers in this monumental exhibition.

Dinnigan 5Dinnigan has come undone, in all the right ways.

Offering the viewer an insight into her intimate world, exposing all her creative glory is a masterstroke.

It seems that Tregloan and Dinnigan are on the same page. This is reflected through the cohesion which flows in each of the spaces.

Unlaced covers her twenty five year career and features over 100 garments. And I love that it gives us such an insight into an incredibly creative world.

The exhibition is divided into different zones, each representing a different side of the designer.

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Collette Dinnigan: Unlaced, exhibition Powerhouse Museum, courtesy Museum Applied Arts & Sciences

From the entrance way where we are offered a voyeuristic glimpse through gauzy windows of lovely lingerie, we are instantly seduced into her elegant world.

It seems fitting that the entrance is marked with underwear as this is how Collette started in the industry.

She established her label with a range of luxurious handmade silk lingerie in 1990.

These were quickly snapped up by Barney’s in New York and Harvey Nichols in London, and it’s easy to understand why.

At a time when grunge was “it”, Collette offered feminine, decadent pieces, the complete antithesis of what was available and it worked a charm.

She also sourced charming vintage laces and fabrics for her collections.

I would hazard a guess, as grunge has it’s roots in vintage, that this also played a part in it’s immense popularity at the time.

The clean lines of the bridal room are pristine white reflecting the emotion and drama of a brides entrance into her wedding.

I love the delicate installation piece by Tregloan, almost like rose petals showering the bride leaving the church.

It works beautifully with the wedding gowns chosen, my favourite of which was the strapless corset gown.

Made of silk organza and silk dupion, its inspiration lies in lush country gardens and daisy fields.

collette-dinnigan-unlaced-5Very romantic, and I can imagine if a light breeze were blowing, the petals of the silk flowers would flutter, oh so delicately, like a butterfly on a spring day.


Collette Dinnigan: Unlaced, exhibition Powerhouse Museum, courtesy Museum Applied Arts & Sciences

The Studio 54 feel in the tinsel space captures a rock’n’roll feel, and anyone who knows me can attest, I love sequins and a rockstar vibe!

Feathers, sequins and sparkles are taken to new heights.

I also loved that these mediums have the girlish edge chipped away and are far more womanly.

Cleverly Collette Dinnigan decided to make these pieces mini in length.

This balances all the glitz beautifully and the pattern within lifts, what could become a tad repetitive, to a striking level.

Sass and sparkles all the way! The “lace room” is spectacular.

By creating a “light box” effect with the mannequins we are given an almost microscopic view to the intricacy of the lace patterns.

These ethereal materials start by Dinnigan working on the textile design with lace manufactures in France.

They then arrive in five metre pieces and a fitting sample and paper marker is made for indicating the location of the beading.

It is then sent to India to be hand embroidered and beaded, before returning to Sydney where garments are cut and made into stunning pieces of clothing.

Surrounding these web-like delicacies are the paper pattern pieces used to guide the extremely talented cutters.

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Collette Dinnigan: Unlaced, exhibition Powerhouse Museum, courtesy Museum Applied Arts & Sciences

Dinnigan 1

Collette Dinnigan: Unlaced, exhibition Powerhouse Museum, courtesy Museum Applied Arts & Sciences

It is from these that fabrics become clothes.

Each piece is integral to the other.

The main hall that houses the majority of the collection is a sea of seductive silks, gorgeous georgette’s and beauteous beading.

Dinnigan’s gowns have always had a certain old Hollywood glamour to them, and this collection shows us her background in costume is a positive in her designs.

Rather than looking contrived, she channels her obvious love of different eras.

She cherry picks the best silhouettes and generates a modernity to them, thus creating timeless fashion.

And don’t get me started on the “mood board” room!

If you love colour, this is an absolute dream and so inspiring! A visual feast that emotionally moved me, and the sheer amount of detail is unbelievable.

It would be a dream to spend time with Collette Dinnigan in her workspace, and here in this exhibition we are given that exact opportunity. Like a fashion magpie feathering her creative nest, she collects postcards, fabrics and ribbons in all colours of the rainbow, always ready to hatch a new idea.

I simply adore the creative space set up for children. An array of Dinnigan’s fabrics have be reproduced into print and little hands can design their own ready-to-wear pieces on the paper dolls provided.

Dinnigan 6It took me back to my childhood when I loved playing with paper dolls, I almost sat down, there and then, and started cutting!

All these areas have an innate quality, reflecting the designer.

Dinnigan BEST

Collette Dinnigan: Unlaced, exhibition Powerhouse Museum, courtesy Museum Applied Arts & Sciences

Collette Dinnigan:Unlaced is the first exhibition to be developed by the MAAS team as part of the newly created MAAS centre for fashion” said MAAS Director Rose Hiscock.

And if this is the first, what a way to start!

The NSW Minister for Trade, Tourism and Major Events Stuart Ayres said that the exhibition was world class and further evidence that Sydney is Australia’s home of fashion.

I would have to agree.


Collette Dinnigan: Unlaced, exhibition Powerhouse Museum, courtesy Museum Applied Arts & Sciences

This exhibition is on par with the likes of ones I have seen and the V&A in London, England, The Met in New York City and just recently, the stunning 125 year celebration of Jeanne Lanvin at the Palais Galleria in Paris, France.

When we are given the opportunity, Australia is right up there with the rest of the world. Collette Dinnigan: Unlaced only serves to prove the point, and the MAAS has risen to the occasion.

If you already have a love of fashion, this is heaven.

If you feel impartial towards the sartorial world, you just might find yourself heavily swayed to the romance of it all, it could be your undoing, or to use a different word, unlacing.

Jo Bayley, Fashion Editor, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016

Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences

Collette Dinnigan: Unlaced

5 September 2015–28 August 2016

Powerhouse Museum
Ultimo Sydney
Open Daily
10:00am – 5:00pm


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